ACNE and DIETS
ACNE and DIETS
Much has been said about our diet and acne. Most of it is nonsense. Giving up chocolates or fried food will not clear acne. However, acne is caused by the western diet in its entirety. When young people migrate from the Third World to the Western World and start eating western food, they get acne. Recently, studies in Australia have demonstrated that acne will improve if the diet is modified. In brief, high glycemic index foods have to be reduced, as does consumption of dairy products, fats and processed foods. Protein content has to be increased. The diet is available from the Australian Women’s Weekly via the internet.
How does the western diet cause acne? Here is a synopsis of the current theory. Acne is a disease of sebaceous glands (oil glands). Androgens make them enlarge and function. Acne develops at puberty when:
The duct of the gland is blocked because skin cells stick together (abnormal keratinization).
Oil (sebum) builds up and bacteria proliferate in the plugged gland.
The bacteria alter the composition of the oil and make it more likely to cause inflammation.
The glands rupture, oil gets into the skin and causes inflammation.
The western diet is high in calories and a large portion of these are derived form high glycemic index (GI) foods. In the USA, 47% of the energy intake is high GI foods. A recent US survey found that 54% of women aged more than 25 years had some degree of acne, while 40% of men in this age group were affected.
High GI foods raise blood sugar and this causes the pancreas to release extra insulin. Insulin has direct effects on the sebaceous gland to cause abnormal keratinization and increased sebum production; and indirect effects to cause similar changes in the glands.
Insulin has many effects apart from controlling blood sugar. It increases Insulin-like Growth Factor (ILGF) .
ILGF promotes keratinocyte proliferation.
ILGF stimulates sebum production.
Insulin decreases ILGF-binding protein
ILGF-binding protein inhibits keratinocyte proliferation and promotes cell death via apoptosis.
The result of these changes in hormones is the development of obstructions in the outflow duct of the oil gland.
Insulin increases oil production in the sebaceous glands directly and indirectly by causing increased androgen production in the ovaries and testes. More amounts of the androgen are available to act inside the sebaceous glands because insulin reduces the amount of sex hormone binding globulin available. This protein binds androgens and prevents them entering cells to act.
The result of these changes is more oil production and enlargement of the oil glands.
The western diet is high in unsaturated fatty acids that promote inflammation. When the sebaceous glands rupture, the sebum is more irritating and inflammation is more severe.
The preceding article was a summary of the theory of how the western diet causes acne. If acne-affected people want to try to clear their skins through a diet they have to change the entire diet and stick to the new diet. This is difficult if people want to interact with others and lead a normal social life. For most sufferers of acne it is easier to eat what others eat and to take tablets, and use creams to clear the acne. In any case, it should be kept in mind that going on the anti-acne diet led to improvement (fewer pimples) but the patients did not always clear all signs of acne.